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The term bow tie refers to a recent concept that tries to grasp the essence of some operational and functional structures observed in biological organisms and other kinds of complex and self-organizing systems. In general, bow tie architectures refer to ordered and recurrent structures capable of managing a wide range of inputs through a core (or knot) constituted by a limited number of elements. In such structures, inputs are conveyed into a sort of funnel, towards a "synthesis" core, where they can be duly organized, processed and managed, and from where, in turn, a variety of outputs, or responses, is propagated.

scheme of a general bow tie architecture

According to Csete and Doyle[1], bow ties are able to optimally organize fluxes of mass, energy, signals in an overall structure that forcedly deals with a highly fluctuating and "sloppy" environment. In a biological perspective, a bow tie holds and manages a large fan in of stimuli (input), it accounts for a "compressed" core, and it expresses again a large fan out of possible phenotypes, metabolite products, or -more generally- reusable modules. Bow tie architectures have been observed in the structural organization at different scales of living and evolving organisms (i.e. bacterial metabolism network[1][2][3]) as well as in technological and dynamical systems (i.e. the Internet[4]). Bow ties seem to be able to mediate trade-offs among robustness and efficiency, at the same time assuring to the system the capability to evolve.


  1. ^ a b Csete M, Doyle J (2004). "Bow ties, metabolism and disease". Trends Biotechnol. 22 (9): 446–50. doi:10.1016/j.tibtech.2004.07.007. PMID 15331224.  
  2. ^ Ma HW, Zeng AP (2003). "The connectivity structure, giant strong component and centrality of metabolic networks". Bioinformatics 19 (11): 1423–30. doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btg177. PMID 12874056.  
  3. ^ Zhao J, Yu H, Luo JH, Cao ZW, Li YX (2006). "Hierarchical modularity of nested bow-ties in metabolic networks". BMC Bioinformatics 7: 386. doi:10.1186/1471-2105-7-386. PMID 16916470.  
  4. ^ Broder A, Kumar R, Maghoul F, Raghavan P, Rajagopalan S, Stata R, Tomkins A, Wiener, J (2000). "Graph structure in the Web". Computer Networks 33 (1-6): 309–20. doi:10.1016/S1389-1286(00)00083-9.  


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